Still, readers suitably prepared for Bloom, and of a hell-in-a-handbasket cast of mind with respect to the current culture,...

GENIUS

A MOSAIC OF ONE HUNDRED EXEMPLARY CREATIVE MINDS

A fresh installment in Bloom’s Adleresque campaign to dust off the Western Civ 101 syllabus for a generation of readers led astray by the “impostors” running the academy.

“Genius,” Bloom (How to Read and Why, 2000, etc.) allows, is a slippery term: it is “a mystery of the capacious consciousness”; it is “idiosyncratic and grandly arbitrary, and ultimately stands alone”; it is revealed in, well, works of genius of the sort that the contemporary university seems to have little room for—in, say, the poems of Eliot, the dramas of Shakespeare, the sermons of Donne. Never mind the apparent circularity of the argument, for here Bloom collects deeply learned remarks, critical and biographical, on a cluster of a hundred shapers and makers of the Western mind as, he suggests, it ought to be. Only a few of them are non-Western: the sole representative of Asia is Lady Murasaki, author of the medieval Tale of Genji; Muhammad represents the Arab world; Africa goes entirely unrepresented. But Bloom is inclusive, at least in his own way; grouping his hundred authors by a complex—and certainly idiosyncratic—classificatory system of perceived affinities, one that derives from the Kabbalah and certain Gnostic texts, he finds room for moderns such as Tennessee Williams and Wallace Stevens, for Hispanic writers such as Octavio Paz and Alejo Carpentier, for women such as Christina Rossetti and Flannery O’Connor alongside the usual dead white males of the European canon. Bloom’s system will likely be more meaningful to Bloom than his readers, but it’s refreshing all the same to see Herman Melville cast alongside Virginia Woolf, Robert Browning alongside Lewis Carroll, Homer alongside James Joyce by virtue of their writerly interests. Bloom’s biographical sketches are satisfyingly offbeat, if sometimes so allusive as to assume wide background reading: “The sage of Vienna, who intended to become no less than a new Moses, replacing Judaism by psychoanalysis, became instead a new Prospero, but one who would not break his staff or drown his book.”

Still, readers suitably prepared for Bloom, and of a hell-in-a-handbasket cast of mind with respect to the current culture, will find this a rewarding excursion.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2002

ISBN: 0-446-52717-3

Page Count: 832

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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